Ten news sites echo government war-mongering narrative on UN-reported Human Rights violations in Venezuela, but fail to provide accurate, fact-checked information.

Ana Julia Niño Gamboa


No one disputes the nefarious impact of disinformation in any of its shapes and sizes: Fake news, propaganda, conspiracy theories, hoaxes, cadenas (mandatory simulcasts of government addresses), rumors, memes, use of bots, or so-called cyber troops (local version of trolls), are all lethal weapons against the right to free speech. Therefore, the task ahead is to detect their forms, document, and blow the whistle on them.

It is precisely in this area that this investigation is framed: We intend to take an inventory of the information produced by media outlets aligned with the government of Nicolás Maduro, regarding the Report of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, as commissioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on November 27, 2019.

We endeavored to explore the sites of various pro-government media in search of the government truth, in the understanding that these media may serve as a platform for the dissemination of public and reliable information by fact-checking the serious accusations made by the FFM in its report released on September 16, 2020. Our review encompassed 10 media outlets with ties to the government; the review was conducted online, covering the period from September 16 to 21, 2020. Additionally, we visited the official websites of Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores) and Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General) in search of additional information to that posted on both entities’ social media. We addressed this investigation as an instant snapshot, because it is information with an impact that has not yet reached its peak.

Table 1: Media outlets reviewed

Últimas Noticiaswww.ultimasnoticias.com.ve
La Iguana TVwww.laiguana.tv
Correo del Orinocowww.correodelorinoco.gob.ve
Venezolana de Televisiónwww.vtv.gob.ve
Diario Veawww.eldiariovea.home.blog
Ciudad Caracaswww.ciudadccs.info
Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN)www.avn.info.ve
Source: Author’s research

What does the government information say?

The response to the FFM’s report was provided by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicolás Maduro’s administration Jorge Arreaza who, on September 16, in three tweets on his Twitter account, spoke out against the document. There is no official statement on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website; however, we found statements by the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Treaty (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América – Tratado de Comercio de los Pueblos, ALBA-TPC), the Communist Party of Spain (Partido Comunista de España, PCE), and Argentina’s Descamisados Peronista Political Group (Corriente Peronista Descamisados), rejecting the contents of the document. In addition, we found the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released in December 2019, decrying the creation of the FFM.

During an address on Saturday, September 19, 2020, the government’s position was presented in full. On this occasion, Jorge Arreaza himself spoke, now alongside the Attorney General appointed by the National Constituent Assembly (Asamblea Nacional Constituyente, ANC)1, Tarek William Saab. Additional remarks were made by the attorney general, who assured that he made great efforts in cases involving Human Rights. Despite his claims regarding weekly accountability releases, the fact is that it is not possible to access any information on his office’s activity, be it on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis. Paradoxically, the latest accountability release naming government figures and officials was prepared under former Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz in 2016.

As pointed out above, with the review of the official media, the aim is to find news items that, based on statements from officials, expand the corresponding public information. It is worth mentioning that the media outlets analyzed showed restraint in not addressing the subject until after Minister Arreaza’s tweets.

What did the media say?

In general, the media reviewed published the officials’ speeches, that is, they limited themselves to reproducing their statements, in many cases, adding screenshots of their tweets. In other cases, they devoted themselves to publishing the statements from some opposition spokespersons and the negative reactions unleashed against them on Twitter. Two media outlets presented something different: One published an interview, also aligned with the government narrative, and added an article referring back to the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2019 in rejection of the formation of the FFM within the Human Rights Council and in disavowal thereof as a legitimate body for fact-finding. The other published an op-ed without a byline, so it seems more like an editorial with propaganda hues albeit inserted on the opinion pages.

It is evident that, by repeating the script of the official spokespersons, they fall into the same dynamic of bashing the FFM and its members, of endorsing the war-mongering discourse that depicts Venezuela as the most coveted bull’s eye for US shots and, by proxy, for the Lima Group2, furthermore, with support of the UN. The propaganda overtones of the pieces reviewed is the palpable proof of the opportunity missed by pro-government media to approach the issue with a little more commitment to citizens, especially those supporting the rule of Nicolás Maduro.

The pieces fail to report on such a serious matter; the message is challenged by means of attempts at destroying the messenger; most of the arguments are personally addressed. Even when reporting on the press conference, in which journalists were not allowed to ask questions, contradictions and errors were made. For example, when faced with the number of cases investigated by the FFM, the minister of foreign affairs downplays it, arguing that those are the figures in Colombia in one week. At that point, he does not deny the matter, he confirms it, and worse, he trivializes it because supposedly the same crimes are committed in the neighboring country but in a shorter time. The same thing happens with the attorney general, who assures that the institution headed by him has prosecuted several law enforcement officers and that this information is available. In fact, by doing so, he confirms that these law enforcement bodies are the perpetrators of the crimes denounced in the UN report; but, in addition, there is no documentary proof of the accountability claimed by him; it does not appear on the institution’s website, or in any official report with detailed and publicly available figures.

The following table specifies the media and their respective publications. We must make special mention of the difficulty accessing the website of the Venezuelan News Agency (Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, AVN), listed below among the media reviewed since it is mentioned as a source in several of the news items analyzed. At the beginning, there was no access to the site and, in the following days, it opened but it provided no news updates.

Table 2: Analysis of headlines by media outlet reviewed

Diario Vea (See Daily)1) Plagued by hoaxes, report of “phantom mission” on Human Rights against Venezuela 2) Arreaza: Report by alleged UN experts seeks to torpedo D6 dialogue and elections 3) Testimony of Requesens denies report of UN “phantom mission” against Venezuela1) 9/16/2020

2) 9/19/2020

3) 9/19/2020
Founded by a pro-government politician, privately owned, aligned with government narrative
La Iguana TV1) Background: UN Report on Human Rights in Venezuela denounced by Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2019 2) This is what Diosdado Cabello3 said about UN Report on Human Rights against Venezuela 3) Julio Borges says UN report was his achievement and he was bashed on Twitter. 4) Fallacies and lack of evidence: Britto-Garcia on UN report against Venezuela 5) Duque did not even read UN report on Venezuela and fabricates another false positive.1) 9/16/2020

2) 9/17/2020

3) 9/18/2020

4) 9/19/2020
5) 9/20/2020
Privately owned; this media outlet published statements from the official spokesperson and does dare to present them non-verbatim. It also published statements from other politicians (namely, Interim President Juan Guaidó’s Foreign Affairs Minister Julio Borges) just to present the reaction against them by Twitter users. It further presents an interview (with leftist writer and scholar Britto-Garcia) on the subject in support of the government’s position.
Últimas Noticias (Breaking News)1) Government rejects “report of hoaxes” 2) Saab: Writers of UN report did not set foot in Venezuela1) 9/17/2020 2) 9/19/2020Privately owned, acquired by government loyalists in 2014, aligned with government narrative

VTV (Venezolana de Televisión)
1) Foreign Affairs Minister Arreaza: $5M allegedly paid to authors of accusatory report against Venezuela that is a reprint of one presented by Almagro 2) International Solidarity Committee rejects UN FFM report on Venezuela 3) Venezuela refutes report of alleged human rights experts and describes it as testament to war propaganda1) 9/16/2020

2) 9/17/2020
3) 9/19/2020
Flagship state-owned national TV network aligned with government narrative
Globovisión1) Venezuelan government assures that UN report “seeks to violate Venezuela’s sovereignty” 2) Testimony of Juan Requesens contradicts UN report on Venezuela1) 9/16/2020

2) 9/21/2020
Privately owned 24-hr. news channel acquired by government loyalists in 2013, aligned with government narrative Piece on congressman and former political prisoner Requesens attributed to lechuginos.com
Telesur1) Venezuela rejects Human Rights Council investigation4 2) Government of Venezuela rejects international report on human rights 3) A sloppy report 4) Chile’s Communist Party rejects report against Venezuela 5) Venezuela’s Supreme Court rejects report of Lima Group Commission 6) Spanish Communist Party rejects report against Venezuela1) 9/16/20202
2) 9/19/2020
3) 9/18/2020 4) 9/19/2020
5) 9/21/2020
6) 9/21/2020
Multi-state owned, aligned with government narrative; Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is credited as the source for piece No. 1 Source: AVN No byline, in the opinion section Sources: CCP, Prensa Latina
Sources: VTV, Cubadebate
Source: Twitter account of the PCE
Tves (Televisora Venezolana Social)1) Arreaza: UN report was prepared by phantom mission against Venezuela 2) Minister of Foreign Affairs Arreaza: United Nations report is a campaign of manipulation against Venezuela 3) TSJ5 rejects report of United Nations Fact-Finding Mission1) 9/17/2020
2) 9/19/2020

3) 9/21/2020
State-owned; aligned with government narrative
Ciudad CCS (Caracas City)1) PSUV6 rejects report of UN-FFM against Venezuela 2) ALBA-TCP rejects report of questionable accuracy on Venezuela presented by “Human Rights Experts” 3) TSJ rejects report of alleged human rights experts on Venezuela1) 9/19/2020
2) 9/19/2020
3) 9/21/2020
State-owned; it only referred to rejection by PSUV, ALBA-TCP, and the TSJ; however, it did not cite the statements of Minister Arreaza or those of Attorney General Saab. Its sources were VTV, AVN and the UN-FFM report.
Correo del Orinoco (Orinoco Post)1) Venezuela rejects report “plagued with hoaxes” prepared by UN “phantom mission” 2) Minister of Foreign Affairs Arreaza: UN-FFM never came to Venezuela to do the report 3) Attorney General: UN-FFM Report has “strong political bias” 4) ALBA-TCP rejects UN “human rights experts” report as “biased”1) 9/16/2020

2) 9/19/2020

3) 19/9/2020
4) 20/9/2020
State-owned; aligned with government narrative

It appears as a source in several pieces. However, problems were experienced trying to access its website: First, there was no access, and then the site opened but no breaking news were found.
Source: Author’s research

These findings show very little interest from the government in providing public information, and the same is true of the media. This lack of information is an incentive for disinformation, since it leaves room for conspiracy theories, fake news, rumors, hoaxes, etc., to slip through. What the FFM report points out is serious for the country. Much more serious is that the government and the media do not allow access to accurate and fact-checked public material, because, if the FFM is lying, citizens should know; instead, if it tells the truth, we have the right to know, and the State must guarantee that investigations are extensive, that responsibilities are determined, that justice is served to the victims and their families, and that credible assurances of non-recurrence are given. All of this must be done in compliance with international standards applicable to crimes against humanity regarding the principles of truth, justice, reparation, and the guarantee of non-recurrence.


1) The State communication policy is supported on social media, always preferring the use of the digital platform on Twitter. The information that government operatives post and let gain momentum therein is very poorly supported on official websites, so it is difficult to access formal official information with any rigor.

2) The review conducted on news items from media outlets aligned with the Nicolás Maduro government shows that they are yet another vehicle for propaganda. Even in the most sensitive matters, such as the one addressed by this investigation, opacity is at the service of the government’s narrative.

3) We have noted the seriousness of the points made in the report of the FFM of the UN, moreover given the claims from officials regarding the alleged political bias thereof. Precisely because of this, we were counting on gaining access to information that would rebut the accusations against the government. However, both the official statements and the way they are reflected by the media are guilty of what they accuse, that is, they politicize the report and thereby evade their responsibility to provide accurate and timely news, as provided for by the Venezuelan Constitution.

4) We insist that propaganda, conspiracy theories, and the lack of public information impair the right of access to public information and other issues related of freedom of expression, because they cause informational disorder. Even so, they seem to be part of the government’s communication policy.

5) The snapshot of sorts taken in this investigation reveals the possibility of more careful, in-depth analysis of the outcome and impact, whatever they may be, of the UN’s FFM report. We hope that this will be done within the framework of respect for citizens to receive public information with no other limitations than those necessary to safeguard other legitimate legal goods, as established by international standards in this regard.

Executive Summary:

For the government, it suddenly dawned on September 16, 2020: The over 400-page report prepared by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela “to investigate extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment since 2014 with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims” – which was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council on September 27, 2019 – not only specified that there have been arbitrary detentions, short-term forced disappearances, acts of torture, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment since 2014, but also determined that these acts respond to a systematic State policy and named Nicolás Maduro and several officials of his government for their involvement in crimes against humanity.

The first reaction of the government was voiced by its Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza who, in his response, lashed out at the “phantom mission” that made a report “full of hoaxes”, without methodological rigor and remotely. On that same occasion, he used his war-mongering discourse against the United States and closed with a catchphrase worthy of better causes, decrying the practice of “politicking out of human rights instead of making Human Rights policy”.

On Saturday, September 19, Jorge Arreaza repeated his statements, but now alongside Tarek William Saab, his attorney general. In this opportunity, they insisted on the fact that the FFM did its job without coming to Venezuela, they denounced that the Lima Group paid $5 million for the report. Faced with the number of crimes revealed by the report, they could come up with nothing better than to downplay it by saying that this was what happened in Colombia in one week. The attorney general also defended himself by saying that his accountability release regarding investigation and rulings on cases involving Human Rights was available on a weekly basis. Arreaza tried to save Saab’s face by contrasting his work with that of ousted Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, not realizing that her alleged excesses involve both the Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro administrations.

These are the two statements encompassing the government reply to the FFM report. Neither addresses the victims, neither speaks of conducting extensive investigations to determine responsibilities, guarantee justice, reparation, assurances of non-recurrence, in short: peace. Citizens are in the understanding that, in a first moment, officials come out in self-defense; it is always expected that a subsequent act of regard for the truth may open up the possibility of challenging the alleged falsehood of the FFM report by producing facts, data, and public information. This seems to find no room in the government’s narrative.

In this investigation, the news published between September 16 and 21, 2020, by ten pro-government media outlets were reviewed. The sources were searched online, by accessing the websites of these media. We also checked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website expecting to access the official statement; but it is not available, at least by closing time for this report.

Some media only limited themselves to reproducing the message posted on Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza’s Twitter account, without any further elaboration in favor of proper, accurate, and timely public information, as required by the Venezuelan Constitution. Therefore, we specify that the information disseminated by these media caters to the government’s propaganda machine without conjuring up the threat of misinformation encouraged by this practice.

We noticed that official information is disseminated on social media yet lacking links to material proof granting access to accurate and detailed public data, as it should be for public administration agencies pursuant to the principle and duty of accountability.

All of the findings regarding official communication presented herein provide an opportunity for further, more extensive investigations into the issue of public information, information opacity, and the role of the public and government-aligned media in disinformation, especially on the issue addressed, the serious crimes perpetrated against Human Rights as part of State policy.

1 Newsdesk Note (NDN): A regime-engineered parallel constituent and legislative congress, which is not recognized internationally, established as a travesty of the constitutionally sanctioned mechanism by means of a non-competitive electoral contest. This body thus formed was denounced by the Venezuelan opposition, its legitimate Legislative, the US Department of State, the Organization of American States, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, among others.

2 NDN: A multilateral body created following the Lima Declaration of 8 August 2017 in said capital city of Peru, where representatives of 12 countries met in order to find a peaceful exit to the crisis in Venezuela.

3 Translator’s Note (TN): President of the ANC and key leader of the PSUV.

4 TN: Headlines from the Spanish-language feed of Telesur’s website. Its English-language feed condenses these news items in fewer pieces.

5 TN: Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, TSJ)

6 TN: Ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV).

Medianalisis Cotejo Fake News En Este País